By Michael Rosenthal
How dumb can Jarrell Miller be?
The unbeaten heavyweight contender was set to make a career-high $6.5 million against IBF, WBA and WBO champion Anthony Joshua on June 1 in New York City, which would’ve been Miller’s first shot at a major title. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. A victory would’ve made him an international celebrity and one of the highest paid athletes in the world, setting him up financially for life.
And what happens? Miller tests positive for a banned substance, which almost certainly means the fight is off.
The New York State Athletic Commission revoked his license Wednesday after his “A” sample – tested by the respected Voluntary Anti-Doping Association – came back positive for GW 501516, a chemical that can burn off excess fat, speed up recovery while training and enhance endurance.
If Miller’s “B” sample somehow comes back negative, which is rare, authorities presumably could reinstate him. The odds of that happening are remote. The reality is that Joshua’s handlers are at this very moment searching for an adequate replacement for Miller six weeks out from the fight.
How could this happen? Of course, there are many possibilities.
The testing process could somehow have been faulty, which seems highly unlikely. VADA has a stellar reputation.
Miller could’ve taken the substance inadvertently, which also is not likely but possible. Someone close to him could’ve said, “Here, take this. It’s just vitamins,” and he blindly complied. The problem with that theory is that intention doesn’t matter. I’ve written it a million times: Boxers are responsible for everything that goes into their bodies.
And, without making accusations, it’s possible that Miller knowingly took the substance in hopes of getting away with it. How he could’ve come to that conclusion – and, again, I’m not making an allegation – is anyone’s guess.
The only thing we know right now is this: This is a disaster for Miller on multiple levels.
One, Miller accused Joshua of using performance-enhancing drugs before and after signing to fight him, this in spite of the fact Miller failed a drug test when he was a kickboxer about five years ago.
Two, Miller, like too many others, will have violated a moral imperative to play fairly in boxing. This isn’t tennis or bowling. Fighters risk their lives every time they step through the ropes. They have the right to assume that their opponents don’t have an unfair advantage, one that could contribute to life-altering injuries.
To be clear, the act of intentionally taking PEDs in boxing is despicable.
And, three, intentional or not, was it really worth the risk for Miller? He had an opportunity about which all but a few boxers can only dream, one that would’ve allowed him the chance to make history and earn an ungodly amount of money.
If the testing was compromised in some way, I’d be relieved, but New York authorities seem to have faith in the process.
If Miller somehow consumed the substance inadvertently, he needs to use his kickboxing skills to boot himself in the ass. Once again, this is a fighter’s livelihood. He or she must be unfailingly diligent in monitoring everything that goes into his or her body or face the daunting consequences.
And if he knowingly took GW 501516, he should be ashamed of himself both for cheating at Joshua’s expense and for the unusual opportunity he will have flushed down the toilet.
Boxers do it the right way every day. The best of them, of which Miller is supposed to be one, win many of their fights and make a good living without seeking – or accidentally gaining – an artificial edge. I would ask Miller, assuming the substance was in his body: Was it really worth it?
Miller’s career probably isn’t over. Many fighters who have tested positive for banned substances accept their punishment – a suspension, a fine, both – and then resume fighting. Alexander Povetkin, for example, has twice failed drug tests yet remains a major player in the heavyweight division.
The $6.5 million is gone, though. So is the chance to fight for boxing’s greatest prize on its biggest stage, something for which Miller has worked so hard for so long. And there are no guarantees that he will ever get another such opportunity.
How sad. How stupid.
Michael Rosenthal is the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.